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A QUESTION OF ETHICS
We are all witness to a plethora of corporate antics, unethical interpersonal behaviours, such as lying, cheating, discrimination, and sexual ‘forays,’ at the workplace.
One would feel let down and dismayed as to whatever happened to that wonderful idea of ‘corporate conscience’ — of training programmes that are held with good intent, with all the right ingredients in place.
A jazzy five-star concept, high-tech presentations, and critique, and innate exclusivity. It, of course, pays to attend such sessions and learn from them.
Ethics isn’t as easy as it sounds. Says Karan Shah, a legal professional, “Agreed that there are a host of organisations that take optimal interest in promoting ethics, albeit whatever good that has emerged may not have put to shame the perpetrators and led them to their doom, or out of business, or transformed the impertinent.
This is, indeed, the basic and, perforce, the essential truth, notwithstanding that rainbow effect — of a certain deterrence in place
.” Agreed too that most of our ethics, or vision, programmes — whatever they are, in reality — have not led us to paradise.
Yet, one cannot cast the entire idea as fanciful and have it dumped in the Indian Ocean. We’ve got to look at ethics per se without prejudice.
This is because a qualified interest in ethics training has continued to grow positively, every year. This bids fair to promoting understanding, empathy, and dogged realism — while using the best practices and other allied paraphernalia for a higher purpose.
This brings us to a handful of inevitable questions. What can be really achieved through ethics programmes? Can these training concepts contribute something to the betterment of the individual, or the organisation?
How does an effective programme work? How can one use, or measure, some known, or unknown, indices to scanning and evaluating ‘planned’ effectiveness? It isn’t easy, because there are pitfalls? Yes.
Here’s one example. When the ethical character of a company is always set by its big bosses, wielding a bag of ethical choices can be dangerous, also injurious, to one’s career.
There is also a ‘catch.’ As Bhaskar Rao, a senior manager, puts it, “When your chief feigns a commitment to ethics and does something different, what can you do, at your level? Not much.” Analysts opine that legislated ethics may not work at all.
Self-regulation, they say, can possibly work with such guidelines as codes of conduct — but, not always. Reason? Any newly-acquired ‘tool’ can be ruthless. So also regulation of ethics. Ethics cannot overcome all contingencies.
The only way it can be made use of in training is by way, or methods, of discussion, appreciation, acknowledgment, discovery and development, and not on the basis of a taut resolution which only defines behavioural codes, or parameters.
Ethics can be generalised by implication, yes — of a set of rules of demeanour that mirrors the sentiments and character of the workforce. Ethics training becomes vital when companies need to answer challenges — from employees, stock and shareholders, governmental regulations etc.
Agreed that ethics programmes cannot change personal values, or cure all the ills of men, women, and the world, but they can offer us a platform for discussing moral issues and questions — and, to arriving at optimally viable choices.
All of us face ethical dilemmas, every day. As Jack Casey, author of “Ethics in the Financial Marketplace,” puts it, “Ethics training should teach people how to work through complex issues with those who are knowledgeable about the alternatives.”
Adds Thomas von der Embse, a noted ethics-management guru: “For many people, ethics simply means staying out of trouble.” He explains, “Ethics has a certain amount of economic motivation because getting caught may mean losing your job.
But, there are people who have maintained a sense of conscience and an awareness of the so-called consequences of their actions.
They are not campaigning for a particular issue, but for a renewed sense of conscience in the organisation.
They want to be able to feel good about what they are doing and they want to be able to sleep at night. They are the pioneers; they are also pathfinders in the field of ethics.” People are, doubtless, proud to work for companies known for high ethical standards, vision, openness, and values.
Also, for companies that invest in people. And, for good reasons, a large number of companies have found it advantageous to discover, foster, and nurture their corporate conscience.
This is the best thing that has happened ever since the invention of the word, ethics, its tenets, or principles.
THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY THE AUTHOR ARE PERSONAL